ATHEISM & Is the “New Atheists” Lack of Belief Inconsistent with the Scientific Method? Prize-Winning Physicist Thinks It Is.

Interview by Lee Billings, Scientific American Magazine, 3/20/19 with

Marcelo Gleiser a 60-year-old Brazil-born theoretical physicist at Dartmouth College and prolific science popularizer, has won this year’s Templeton Prize. Valued at just under $1.5 million, the award from the John Templeton Foundation annually recognizes an individual “who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” 

Scientific American spoke with Gleiser about the award, how he plans to advance his message of consilience, the need for humility in science, why humans are special, and the fundamental source of his curiosity as a physicist.

You’ve written and spoken eloquently about nature of reality and consciousness, the genesis of life, the possibility of life beyond Earth, the origin and fate of the universe, and more. How do all those disparate topics synergize into one, cohesive message for you?

To me, science is one way of connecting with the mystery of existence. And if you think of it that way, the mystery of existence is something that we have wondered about ever since people began asking questions about who we are and where we come from. So while those questions are now part of scientific research, they are much, much older than science. I’m not talking about the science of materials, or high-temperature superconductivity, which is awesome and super important, but that’s not the kind of science I’m doing. I’m talking about science as part of a much grander and older sort of questioning about who we are in the big picture of the universe. To me, as a theoretical physicist and also someone who spends time out in the mountains, this sort of questioning offers a deeply spiritual connection with the world, through my mind and through my body. Einstein would have said the same thing, I think, with his cosmic religious feeling.

Why are you against atheism?

I honestly think atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. What I mean by that is, what is atheism? It’s a statement, a categorical statement that expresses belief in nonbelief. “I don’t believe even though I have no evidence for or against, simply I don’t believe.” Period. It’s a declaration. But in science we don’t really do declarations. We say, “Okay, you can have a hypothesis, you have to have some evidence against or for that.” And so an agnostic would say, look, I have no evidence for God or any kind of god (What god, first of all? The Maori gods, or the Jewish or Christian or Muslim God? Which god is that?) But on the other hand, an agnostic would acknowledge no right to make a final statement about something he or she doesn’t know about. “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” and all that. This positions me very much against all of the “New Atheist” guys—even though I want my message to be respectful of people’s beliefs and reasoning, which might be community-based, or dignity-based, and so on. And I think obviously the Templeton Foundation likes all of this, because this is part of an emerging conversation. It’s not just me; it’s also my colleague the astrophysicist Adam Frank, and a bunch of others, talking more and more about the relation between science and spirituality...

Read more at … https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/atheism-is-inconsistent-with-the-scientific-method-prize-winning-physicist-says/

GOD’S EXISTENCE & Stephen Hawking: Only the Christian View of God Makes Sense.

by Fr. Matthew Schneider, Pathos, 10/22/18.

There are many different views of God. Hawking tries to argue against God’s existence but ends up leaving the Christian view of God as the only possible one.

In his final book, famed astrophysicist and atheist, Stephen Hawking spoke about God’s relationship to the universe. Live Science published an article titled: “Stephen Hawking’s Final Book Says There’s ‘No Possibility’ of God in Our Universe.” It includes some key quotations and summaries from the book, “Brief Answers to Big Questions,” published this week:

“If you accept, as I do, that the laws of nature are fixed, then it doesn’t take long to ask: What role is there for God?”

Hawking will argue for the universe existing at random:

“The universe itself, in all its mind-boggling vastness and complexity, could simply have popped into existence without violating the known laws of nature.”

Following this up, Hawking states:

“We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in,” Hawking wrote. “For me this means that there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in.”

Other God’s Can’t Exist

These lines rule out many conceptions of God but leave the Christian conception of God unscathed.

The Judeo-Christian God Can Exist

However, the God of Judaism and Christianity is exempt from Hawking’s critique. Hawkings assumes properly, “the laws of nature are fixed,” then notes that the universe could have just started existing without violating the laws of nature. So far I concur. However, he makes three mistakes.

All Material

First, he assumes God is the level of the universe. Hawking states, “If you like, you can say the laws are the work of God, but that is more a definition of God than a proof of his existence.” However, the Christian view has never been a God at the level of the universe but one far above on a totally different level of existence.

All Temporal

Second, he assumes all causes are temporal. He explicitly states that God couldn’t have caused the universe as there was no time for God to exist in (3rd quote above). Even in science, some things would be simultaneous but causally related. We say gravity causes a rock to fall, but the force of gravity is simultaneous to the rock falling. Furthermore, time is the measurement of change but change indicates imperfection as it is a moment towards or away from perfection. Thus, the Christian conception of God is unchanging and thus outside of time.

Why?

Third, he forgets to ask why? Why is there anything, not nothing? Hawking just assumes it all just randomly happened but even randomness has a cause. The lottery is random but we all know that there is a cause behind the randomness.

In Christianity, we view God as the very act of being himself. In other words, God is IS. If you get this, you can pass Christian metaphysics 101. The idea is that “to be” doesn’t change the nature of a thing – we can think of a wookie even though no wookies are. It is God himself who maintains all – from quarks to humans to super-massive black holes – in existence. Each is insofar as God grants it existence. 

Conclusion

Hawking was an atheist and critiqued the concept of God, thinking it didn’t match physical reality. He, however, seems to understand God differently than orthodox Christians do. His critiques leave the orthodox Judeo-Christian view of a transcendent and intellectual God as the only possibility.

Christianity has two more concepts of God that are above reason but not contrary to it: the Trinity and the Incarnation. Hawking’s critiques of God don’t address these either for or against.

There is a reason science grew and developed most in Christianity: our rational view of God. Next time an atheist tries to argue against God, realize they often mean something other than God when they use the word “god” …

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/throughcatholiclenses/2018/10/stephen-hawking-only-the-christian-view-of-god-makes-sense/

NONES & The number of Americans ages 18-29 who have no religious affiliation has nearly quadrupled in the last 30 years. #ComparisonChart

from , “Flunking Sainthood,” 5/8/18.

CHART 27-Americans-18-29-with-no-religious-affiliation-NONES-1376x1032

2016 PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute)

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2018/03/08/if-mormonism-becomes-liberal-and-progressive-wont-it-decline-even-more/

BLACK HISTORY & 5 facts about the religious lives of African Americans #PewResearch #BlackHistoryMonth

by David Masci, Pew Research, 2/7/18.

Religion, particularly Christianity, has played an outsize role in African American history. While most Africans brought to the New World to be slaves were not Christians when they arrived, many of them and their descendants embraced Christianity, finding comfort in the Biblical message of spiritual equality and deliverance. In post-Civil War America, a burgeoning black church played a key role strengthening African American communities and in providing key support to the civil rights movement.

For Black History Month, here are five facts about the religious lives of African Americans.

1 Roughly eight-in-ten (79%) African Americans self-identify as Christian, as do seven-in-ten whites and 77% of Latinos, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Most black Christians and about half of all African Americans (53%) are associated with historically black Protestant churches, according to the study. Smaller shares of African Americans identify with evangelical Protestantism (14%), Catholicism (5%), mainline Protestantism (4%) and Islam (2%).

2 The first predominantly black denominations in the U.S. were founded in the late 18th century, some by free black people. Today, the largest historically black church in the U.S. is the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc. Other large historically black churches include the Church of God in Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), and two other Baptist churches – the National Baptist Convention of America and the Progressive National Baptist Association Inc.

3 African Americans are more religious than whites and Latinos by many measures of religious commitment. For instance, three-quarters of black Americans say religion is very important in their lives, compared with smaller shares of whites (49%) and Hispanics (59%); African Americans also are more likely to attend services at least once a week and to pray regularly. Black Americans (83%) are more likely to say they believe in God with absolute certainty than whites (61%) and Latinos (59%).

4 The share of African Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated has increased in recent years, mirroring national trends. In 2007, when the first Religious Landscape Study was conducted, only 12% of black Americans said they were religiously unaffiliated — that is, atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” By the time the 2014 Landscape Study was conducted, that number had grown to 18%. As with the general population, younger African American adults are more likely than older African Americans to be unaffiliated. Three-in-ten (29%) African Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 say they are unaffiliated compared with only 7% of black adults 65 and older who say this.

5 Older African Americans are more likely than younger black adults to be associated with historically black Protestant churches. While 63% of the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) say they identify with historically black denominations, only 41% of black Millennials say the same. (When the survey was conducted in 2014, Millennials included those born between 1981 and 1996.)

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/07/5-facts-about-the-religious-lives-of-african-americans/

RELIGION & Religious Nones Still Thank God, Ask for His Help #Pew #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 4/21/16.

They probably won’t show up to church this week, but the religiously unaffiliated may still pray.

A Pew Research study found 76 percent of Americans say they thanked God for something in the past week. That includes 37 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.

A quarter of nones also say they asked God for help in the past week, while 6 percent say they got angry with Him.

Religious individuals are much more likely to say they’ve turned to God recently, but it’s noteworthy how many of those who claim no faith still report talking to God.

The religiously unaffiliated are broken into two categories: atheists/agnostics and those who are “nothing in particular.” Almost half (48 percent) of those who classify themselves as nothing in particular say they expressed gratitude to God in the past week. A third (32 percent) say they asked God for help.

Even a portion of atheists and agnostics say they thanked God in the past week (18 percent) and asked Him for help (13 percent).

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/04/21/religious-nones-still-thank-god-ask-for-his-help/

UNCHURCHED & An Executive Summary of “Unchurched” by Barna & Kinnaman

by John E. Murray (Missional Coach) 10/20/15.

An executive summary of Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them (George Barna and David Kinnaman, 2014, Tyndale Momentum, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois).

Churchless looks intently at the US population in a statistically precise way. The statistics in the book are not created from individual church studies, or anecdotal information, nor is Churchless a compilation of statistical charts and trend analyses without context for the Church. The authors say that churches and ministries “can benefit from a better understanding of adults who intentionally avoid Christian churches. God has called you and your faith community to expand his Kingdom in a particular place with unique features and cultural quirks. Translate the research insights you find here into practical, culturally appropriate action” (Location 1711).

The research for the book is the result of a series of 18 nationwide surveys between 2008 and 2014. The studies surveyed 20,524 adults, including 6,276 churchless adults. This study offers significant insights in perceptions, beliefs, behaviors, and experiences of a statistically significant group of individuals.

The churchless are rising in America. Churchless people were 30% of the population in the 1990s and in 2014 had risen to 43%. Barna and Kinnaman break the population up into four significant groups: The Actively Churched (49%), the Minimally Churched (8%), the De-Churched (33%) and the Purely Unchurched (10%). For the church, this means that a small but slowing growing portion of the population is truly unchurched, meaning that they do not and have not attended church at any time.

The authors rate secularization on a scale from antagonism to advocacy. The nine points on the scale are antagonism, rejection, resistance, doubt, indifference, curiosity, interest, engagement, and advocacy. The measure created by Barna is based on fifteen different variables that measure a person’s identity, beliefs, and behaviors in regards to God, the Bible, and church attendance. From these criteria, the researchers are able to place individuals on the scale from church antagonist to advocate. Using this scale, the population at large was reviewed in 2013. The survey placed 38% in the postmodern section of the scale (indifference to antagonism) with 10% falling in the rejection and antagonism end or highly postmodern. Among churchless adults these percentages rise even more heavily in this sector. One concerning trend is that as the data is separated by generations, the younger the generation the larger the percentage of it falls to the antagonist side of the scale with 48% of mosaics falling into the postchristian end of the spectrum.

One of the highlights of the book for me is the data on prayer. While all other activities related to religion have declined steadily since 2008, those indicating that they have prayed in the past seven days on the Annual OmniPoll by Barna are reversing the decline. This indicator has stayed rather high, above 80% most years. Of interest is that public prayer is a common element that leaves the unchurched feeling empty. The authors say “Public prayers seem more like scripted statements than authentic conversation with God, more like an extension of the teaching time, directed to the congregation rather than to the Lord.” This seems to indicate a possibility that true, heartfelt prayer where we are connected to God in a relationship may be one of the most overlooked tools for reaching churchless people.

The authors end the book with some strategies for reaching the unchurched. “We must not lose sight of the fact that appealing to the unchurched is a spiritual quest, not a business transaction or bottom-line proposition” (location 2413), the authors say. They lay out five strategies in the book: loving them as motivation for everything we do, having our hearts reignited for the lost and sharing Jesus with them, being selfless servants, being suffering servants who are able to show our struggles and God’s victories, being discerning of our culture and how God and the bible address the issues that culture faces, and prayer for the lost and the unchurched.
Barna and Kinnamann do a good job in Churchless of isolating the pertinent data for church leaders instead of just giving a long list of statistics. The data they isolate in the book and their guidance in applying it in real ministry in the 21st century makes this an important book for pastors and ministry leaders. They do not paint a bleak and unwinnable picture of what we face in Christian ministry, but show that with our eyes focused on the churchless around us and with a willingness to understand them and change our strategies to reach them, the churchless can be led home to a family that shares the love, life, and redemptive power of the Living God.

(Note: I am reading this book in the Kindle addition which does not have page numbers embedded at this time.)

Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them (George Barna and David Kinnaman, 2014, Tyndale Momentum, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois).